Let’s Make Teaching Great Again!

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Isn’t it time teachers took an oath?

I swear on a stack of Bibles teaching gets harder. It’s the sort of job that you faithfully do to the best of your ability every day, but you’re not always appreciated. No one said it was going to be easy, but there have been times when it’s made me use words I’m glad don’t linger in the air for hours ‘inside speech bubbles’ for all to see. I believe swearing is a good thing, and as teachers we should do it, and do it in the classroom in front of the children.

Swear in:

All police officers swear, all doctors swear and all Presidents of the United States swear too. But as teachers, we don’t. Why not? Surely we all need to swear and be heard saying it.

What we need, is a professional oath.

Hot Fuzz …

Section 83 of the Police Reform Act 2002 requires all UK Police officers to swear the following oath of office:

I, … … of … do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm, that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office, I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.”

A police constable swears this oath in a ceremony before a Justice of the Peace (Magistrate), who then grants them a warrant card. The warrant card awards the constable his/her authority – on condition they uphold their sworn oath.

Quack, quack …

As a significant step in becoming a doctor, medical students have taken the Hippocratic Oath. This pledge was penned around 2,500 years ago and many doctors have sworn by it. Whilst they are not legally bound by it, the oath acts as a solemn promise and holds those doctors who take it, to a strict code of professional and personal conduct. These days, medical students have revised the oath to reflect modern values with many choosing their own oaths instead.


Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States requires that before presidents can assume their duties, they must take the oath of office. Donald J Trump has taken his and promised to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Image: Shutterstock

Rite of passage:

If the police, doctors, Presidents and Scouts take an oath, then why not teachers? In 2014, Tristram Hunt MP tried to make ‘a public oath‘ compulsory for all teachers as part of the Labour manifesto.

When we qualify as teachers, shouldn’t we have a ‘swearing in ceremony’ at a placement school in assembly where we take an oath? Wouldn’t this remind all those going into the profession about the mind-blowing and awesome responsibilities vested in us as teachers? Children would see this ‘in the flesh’ and it could send a powerful message to them to about how serious a move this is.

Take an oath?

We are given enormous trust by society to teach and look after pupils, so why not make a public pledge to do our best, to serve and to ‘do no harm’.  The pledge could incorporate core values and codes of ethics and remind everyone what an incredibly important job teaching is. Is this something the Chartered College of Teaching could do?

An oath would encompass a myriad of responsibilities, but taking an oath would be a powerful and significant rite of passage in becoming and staying a teacher for life. It sends out the message, that we are committed professionals.

If we pledge to work in the best interests of our pupils and each other, wouldn’t this strengthen our dedication and sense of responsibility? Some might argue that it could perhaps boost the profession’s standing in the community and enhance public confidence in teachers, if that’s even necessary.

I swear blind we need an oath and for a profession with such a deep history, I’m surprised that we don’t have one. We should swear to something and the oath wouldn’t need to be long either. The US Presidential Oath of Office is only thirty-five words long, so let’s keep ours concise too.

Hand on heart …

What would you write for a Teacher Oath?

I do solemnly swear, to … (insert words of choice here).

John Dabell writes for Teacher Toolkit. Read more

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